Putting First Things First

Principles of Leadership Teachers Manual Religion 180R, (2001), 57–63

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. … “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:19–21, 33).

Principle of Leadership

Leaders should plan their time with eternity in mind.

Lesson Concepts

  1. 1.

    Leaders should place a higher priority on eternal life than on the things of this world.

  2. 2.

    Balance is an important attribute of Church and family leaders.

  3. 3.

    Leaders must learn to budget their time.

Concept 1. Leaders Should Place a Higher Priority on Eternal Life Than on the Things of This World.


During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: …

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19, 21).

Elder Delbert L. Stapley, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, explained: “The renewal and sanctification of our bodies by the power of the Holy Ghost is obtained by living the gospel. Our treasures of good works that precede us are building our eternal mansions. To project one’s thinking into the eternities under the influence of the spirit will stretch one’s mind and give clear vision of God’s plan, which will help chart a true course back to his presence. Keep eternity always before you here in mortality and base your acts and judgments and decisions upon God’s eternal laws. We should educate ourselves not only for time but also for eternity” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1967, 75).

Elder M. Russell Ballard, who was then a member of the Seventy, counseled: “Remember, eternity is now, not a vague, distant future. We prepare each day, right now, for eternal life. If we are not preparing for eternal life, we are preparing for something else, perhaps something far less” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1978, 100; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 66).

President Harold B. Lee, who was then a Counselor in the First Presidency, advised: “Most men do not set priorities to guide them in allocating their time, and most men forget that the first priority should be to maintain their own spiritual and physical strength. Then comes their family, then the Church, and then their professions—and all need time” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 615).

Elder Ballard, after he became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, added this counsel: “First, think about your life and set your priorities. Find some quiet time regularly to think deeply about where you are going and what you will need to do to get there. Jesus, our exemplar, often ‘withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed’ (Luke 5:16). We need to do the same thing occasionally to rejuvenate ourselves spiritually as the Savior did. Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish each day. Keep foremost in mind the sacred covenants you have made with the Lord as you write down your daily schedules” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 15; or Ensign, May 1987, 14).

Teaching Idea

Read with students Matthew 6:19–21; Luke 12:13–21. Discuss what these scriptures teach us about the relative importance of temporal and eternal things (see also the commentary).

Have students list activities and concerns that compete for their time. Their list might include studying the scriptures, giving service, working, doing things with friends, spending time with family, exercising, doing school work, and recreating. Have students rank each activity on the list from most to least important, and discuss their criteria for ranking.

Be sure students understand that at times we may need to set aside even high priorities to meet an emergency, accomplish a worthwhile task, or serve others. Similarly, priorities that may seem less important from an eternal perspective, such as schoolwork, may be very important in preparing us for future service in the kingdom. Through all our priorities we should keep our lives centered in Jesus Christ and the gospel.

Concept 2. Balance Is an Important Attribute of Church and Family Leaders.


President Ezra Taft Benson wrote: “Of Jesus’ preparation for His mission, the scripture states that He ‘increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man’ (Luke 2:52). This encompasses four main areas for goals: spiritual, mental, physical, and social. ‘Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?’ asked the Master, and He answered, ‘Verily I say unto you, even as I am’ (3 Nephi 27:27). Now, there is a lifetime goal—to walk in His steps, to perfect ourselves in every virtue as He has done” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 383–84).

Elder Spencer W. Kimball, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, testified: “The Savior had a pleasing personality, he was kind, he was pleasant, he was understanding, he never went off on tangents, he was perfectly balanced. No eccentricities could be found in his life” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 13).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught: “Given the uneven seasons of life, the Lord desires balance in His disciples as well as in the Church collectively. We cannot be all sail and no anchor. Moreover, as we grow, ‘the root and the top’ should be ‘equal in strength,’ providing a capacity to endure both heat and storm (Jacob 5:66)” (If Thou Endure It Well [1996], 122).

Teaching Idea

Have a student read Luke 2:52 aloud. List on the board the words in this verse that describe the ways Jesus Christ grew (wisdom, stature, favour with God and man). Next to these words write mental, physical, spiritual, and social (see the commentary). Have the students discuss the challenges of maintaining balance in these areas.

Consider discussing the idea that sometimes we temporarily lead an “unbalanced” life because of circumstances. For example, university students may spend an unusually large portion of their time studying. While this may be necessary for a time, students should not totally neglect developing other areas of their life and personality. A bishop’s schedule may seem “unbalanced” at times in the sense that his ward duties may keep him from spending as much time as he would like with his family. However, he must do all in his power to spend the necessary time with them and then rely on the Lord to help him meet their needs.

Concept 3. Leaders Must Learn to Budget Their Time.


Church leaders encourage us to establish priorities that are consistent with gospel principles. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve taught: “Place the Savior, His teachings, and His church at the center of your life. Make sure that all decisions comply with this standard” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 43; or Ensign, May 1991, 34). Later Elder Scott counseled: “Make your Eternal Father and His Beloved Son the most important priority in your life—more important than life itself, more important than a beloved companion or children or anyone on earth. Make their will your central desire. Then all that you need for happiness will come to you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 43; or Ensign, May 1993, 34).

On another occasion Elder Scott warned: “Part of [our] testing [in mortality] is to have so many seemingly interesting things to do that we can forget the main purposes for being here. Satan works very hard so that the essential things won’t happen. …

“… In quiet moments when you think about it, you recognize what is critically important in life and what isn’t. Be wise and don’t let good things crowd out those that are essential. …

“… Study the things you do in your discretionary time, that time you are free to control. Do you find that it is centered in those things that are of highest priority and of greatest importance? Or do you unconsciously, consistently fill it with trivia and activities that are not of enduring value nor help you accomplish the purpose for which you came to earth? Think of the long view of life, not just what’s going to happen today or tomorrow. Don’t give up what you most want in life for something you think you want now.

“The essential things must be accomplished during your testing period on earth. They must have first priority. They must not be sacrificed for lesser things, even though they are good and worthwhile accomplishments” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 78–79; or Ensign, May 1997, 53–54).

Most of us feel at times that we do not have enough time to do all we should do or would like to do. Church callings, family obligations, work, hobbies, and so forth all compete for our attention. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, counseled us to use our agency “in such a way that we do the things that matter most, so that these things are not at the mercy of the things that matter least” (Deposition of a Disciple [1976], 58). Church and family leaders need to center their lives on heavenly treasures so they can help others do the same.

Teaching Idea

We budget our time for the same reason we budget our money: to make sure we have enough to spend for that which we most need and want.

Explain that the first step in managing our time is to figure out how much we have to spend. Ask students how many hours there are in one week (168). Ask students what activities they have to do each week (working, going to school, sleeping, eating, and so forth), and have them list them on a piece of paper. Have them write next to each item how many hours they spend at that activity weekly and subtract it from the total. For example, if they spend 40 hours a week working, they have 128 hours left. If they spend 8 hours a day sleeping, then they have 72 hours a week left. If they spend 3 hours at church each Sunday, they have 69 hours left.

When students arrive at a total, ask them what activities they like to do in their free time, and have them write them on their paper. Have them write next to each item how much time they think they should devote to it weekly and subtract it from the total. (If some of the activities they want to do were also included on their lists of things they have to do, do not have them subtract those hours a second time.)

Point out that the activities we value most do not necessarily take the most time. For example, we might only spend a few minutes on a given day in prayer, but prayer might be the most important thing we do that day.

Now give each student a generic weekly calendar. Have the students look at their list of activities they have to do and mark them on the calendar. Then have them write the activities they would like to do in the space that remains.

Stress the importance of giving the activities they value most the highest priority. Suggest that they budget time each week for the Church’s goals of proclaiming the gospel, redeeming the dead, and perfecting the Saints.

Tell students that as leaders we need to organize our time so that we can live according to gospel principles and help others do likewise.

Explain that a calendar can help them remember appointments and other commitments and balance all the activities they value. Point out that a calendar is just one way to budget time, and encourage them to find a way that works for them.

Teacher Resources

M. Russell Ballard